Associates to judge CC partners

After being slammed by associates in the infamous ‘Paddinggate’ memo of October 2002, Clifford Chance’s partners have made the first tentative steps towards rebuilding the rocky relationship with its associates.

The firm has introduced a radical initiative of upward appraisals for partners by the disgruntled associates.

The firm’s New York office has embarked on a test run of partner appraisals in New York’s intellectual property department, which is now being rolled out across the US practice, while Germany is also kicking off its own pilot scheme.

Clifford Chance HR director John Barnard told The Lawyer: “Obviously there’s been a whole series of debates going on in New York. There was a task force set up by partners after [the memo] last autumn, and they’ve been identifying various initiatives, such as specific processes of work assignment for associates.”

While it was accusations of the encouragement of padding hours that grabbed the headlines, partners were also criticised for their general indifference towards associates and for not showing enough interest in mentoring. The memo claimed that “the partners ‘hate’ the associates”.

One of the associates on the personnel committee that wrote the memo said: “It’s a first step. It’s a sign that the partners are genuinely concerned with addressing our concerns and I hope it will be the first of many initiatives.”

He may be disappointed. Barnard stressed that the upward appraisals were to measure partners’ roles as mentors, and not to measure performance.

“It’s not a precursor to anything else, it’s a standalone initiative,” he said.